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Batman and Robin

March 15, 2020

Batman and Robin (1997)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Actors: George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman

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Synopsis: Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) battle the twin threat of Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), while also worrying over the failing health of butler Alfred and the arrival of his precocious young niece, Barbara (Alicia Silverstone).

Review: The sheer corny absurdity of Batman and Robin makes it hard to dislike, although the almost brazen way that Joel Schumacher dispensed with any semblance of seriousness for this film, pretty much tanked the franchise until Christopher Nolan rebooted it under a much more solemn banner some eight years later.

Batman and Robin contains all the cartoonish delight that was the best thing about the previous film, Batman Forever, and the colour scheme here with its icy blues and lurid, soft pinks befitting its two main villains (Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy respectively) is, with retrospect, pleasing on the eye in a pulpy kind of way. There really is some merit in reviving Schumacher’s two Batman films for the sheer flamboyance of their design alone, but, in the realm of storytelling, they’re much less show-stopping.

The problem with this installment is that there are simply too many characters. Batman/Bruce Wayne is barely the ‘lead’ at all, and he’s even battling for space amid his own crowded domestic scene: there’s his recently acquired ward Dick Grayson/Robin, ailing butler Alfred, and Alfred’s young niece, Margaret (a humorously wooden Alicia Silverstone – the “compost” line is a classic of its type). Then there are the villains. Arnold Schwarzenegger fares the best, both in plot time and pathos generated for his character – there’s even a Burtonesque tinge to Mr Freeze’s quest to save his wife. Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy really is a rather preposterous character though who gets the silliest origin fable imaginable and is played in a one-note fashion by Thurman. The less said about Bane the better…

It all feels like it’s a smidgeon away from being a spoof movie. Instead of the odd, choice gag, almost every line is a pun which can’t help but drain even marginal investment in the threat of the narrative. It probably has most present day interest as a camp pop cultural curio. In a strange way, it also reminded me of the similarly blasé Bond film Diamonds are Forever which was, similar to Batman and Robin, a piss-take of its own ‘brand’ and conventions. (March 2020)

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